Last Lap previews the first leg of a double-header for the FIA World Endurance Championship in Bahrain, starting with the 6 Hours of Bahrain.
For the first time ever, the WEC is going to finish the season on a double-header in Bahrain.
After the excitement and drama of Le Mans, the WEC returns after an absence of more than two months.
The Bahrain International Circuit is no stranger to hosting both WEC races and season finales, but expect the unexpected as teams and drivers will do all it takes to pursue the wins, podiums and championship titles up for the taking.
Throughout this preview, we will look at some of the key talking points on the first leg of our unique end to Season 9.
The beginning of an intense two weeks in Bahrain
The season is far from over with 14 hours of racing remaining, but it will all be over in two weeks time.
This weekend’s six-hour race is only the beginning and it will be thrilling to test the patience and strength to race on two consecutive weekends.
It has been a while since the WEC has raced, but almost all teams and drivers have done at least one outing amongst other sportscar endeavours.
Round 5 will take place within the daytime and will head into the evening.
Bahrain has always provided a great amount of action whether it’s in the light or dark, so expect to see wheel-to-wheel racing yet again.
For the teams, they will approach the double-header as single races as they will want to make the most of each one, but acknowledge there is a second chance if things do not bode well at the first race.
ELMS champion Robert Kubica makes his WEC debut
One of the main names taking part at the double-header will be the famed Robert Kubica, a driver who has lived through thick and thin across his esteemed motorsport career.
The former F1 star is most famed for his underrated F1 drives in the late 2000s and 2010.
When he returned to motorsport after his rally accident, he spent time time across many cars including F1 tests and GT3 endurance outings.
His prototype sportscar debut was during the 2016 Bahrain Rookie Test with ByKolles, lapping faster than any of the other team drivers and was officially signed at the beginning of February 2017 but he never pursued any running after the Prologue at Monza.
Fast-forward to 2021, he drove at the 24 Hours of Daytona at the very beginning of the year for High Class Racing, a team he will now make his WEC debut with.
LMP2 is one of the most competitive categories in the WEC and the recently-crowned European Le Mans Series Champion will be familiar with the drivers and teams he’ll be up against.
It may have been a tough pill to swallow when he lost the Le Mans class-win on the final lap, but his ability and pace in an Oreca 07 should not be underestimated.
Against four other Pro/Am entries, expect Kubica to be pushing High Class Racing to fight for that win.
An open field of championship titles to fight out
Despite the fact we are not at the final race as such, the six-hour race will be key for the driver’s and team’s championship titles across all four classes.
The usual 25 points will be awarded to the winners of this six-hour race, followed by 18 points, 15 points, and so on…
At the eight hours of Bahrain, it will be 38 points offered at the top so every point matters.
To recap the title fights, it seems the two Toyotas are the ones who are fighting for the very first Hypercar World Championship title.
The #7 crew of Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi are leading nine points over their sister car after claiming their first Le Mans victory.
Even though the team finished first and second, 14 points distanced those two positions and so the fight will be on for them to become two-time WEC champions.
Realistically, Alpine will only take advantage if there are reliability issues, which could be unlikely as Toyota have made it clear they have since resolved the fuel pressure issue at Le Mans that affected both GR010 Hybrids.
In LMP2, the #28 crew landed a third-placed finish at Le Mans which propelled Sean Gelael, Stoffel Vandoorne and Tom Blomqvist to the top of the drivers’ standings.
Team WRT sit second only one point behind them after their Le Mans win, and just ahead of the other #38 JOTA.
For reigning team champions United Autosports, they only have Phil Hanson fighting to claim his second WEC championship with a 13-point deficit to the #28.
They will need to claim both of the Bahrain victories but rivals Team WRT and JOTA are not only at the upper advantage in the standings, but also house LMP2’s most talented drivers.
A mention on the LMP2 Pro/Am class, it’s an even closer fight.
The #21 DragonSpeed crew lead on 110 points just six points in front of the #29 Racing Team Nederland crew, followed by the #70 Realteam Racing WEC debutants on 101.
A tight margin like this brings in the pressure to perform from these three main contenders after smooth running at the most recent rounds.
Whatever they score at the 6 Hours of Bahrain could easily switch things up for the final race on 6 November.
On to GTE-Pro, Ferrari are in the lead of the manufacturer’s championship over Porsche, 203 to 187 points.
Yet again, we find the Le Mans winners have their FIA WEC GT Driver’s Championship efforts boosted due to the points accumulated.
Although in this case, it is for duo Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado leading over Porsche’s Kevin Estre and Neel Jani.
Both crews are even on the number of wins they’ve claimed so far this season.
So it will be up for the taking with Ferrari’s fair management on tyre degradation from the heat at Portimao, whilst Estre’s qualifying and race-start performances have been impressive nonetheless.
In terms of the BoP, Ferrari are naturally paying the price with a reduced fuel capacity by four litres (compared to normal), as well as a minor turbo boost reduction.
In GTE-Am, the reigning champions AF Corse with Le Mans winners Alessio Rovera, Francois Perrodo and Nicklas Nielsen also benefited from a points boost.
The latter drivers, who are the reigning champions in the category, have performed strongly so far having only struggled at the 8 Hours of Portimao.
They lead at 102 points over the #33 TF Sport crew who each have 65.5.
Despite the confident margin, the #83 drivers will want to pursue podiums if not wins to keep their heads high towards another championship.
If Le Mans and Monza was anything to suggest, it’s that this category features drivers who are not afraid to go wheel-to-wheel and fight for these victories.
Therefore, it could be that Ferrari’s Am car asserts strong pace, or that the Aston Martin can come alive just as it attempted to catch them at Le Mans.
In short, there is unfinished business for the #33 to bring the fight right to the finale.
Round 5 Schedule
|Qualifying – GTE Pro, GTE-Am||Friday 29 October||2.30pm to 2.40pm BST|
|Qualifying – Hypercar, LMP2||Saturday 30 October||2.50pm to 3pm BST|
|Race – 6 Hours of Bahrain||Saturday 30 October||9am to 3pm BST|
To see the entry list, see here. The #46 Team Project 1 have withdrawn from the six-hour race and are likely to return at the finale.